Osteoporosis research: slice of Jarlsberg for your bones?

If you’re tossing up between a wedge of camembert or a slice of Jarlsberg, a new study suggests your bones might thank you for going with the latter holy, nutty-flavoured cheese. The Norwegian researchers attribute this to its high vitamin K2 content.


Increased bone growth

The team gave 66 pre-menopausal women a portion of camembert (50 grams) or Jarlsberg (57 grams) each day for six weeks, in addition to their normal diet. Then those in the camembert group were served Jarlsberg for six weeks.

Blood samples were taken each six weeks to measure vitamin K levels and key biomarkers of bone turnover, including the hormone osteocalcin and a peptide known as PINP. Results showed evidence of increased K2 levels and bone growth in the Jarlsberg but not the camembert group after enjoying their daily dose.

Supporting the observed findings, the biomarkers did increase in the camembert cheese group after they had switched to Jarlsberg.

Both cheeses contain calcium and similar amounts of protein, both important for bone health. Therefore, the researchers attribute the benefits to vitamin K2 which also contributes to bone integrity and has been associated with reduced risk of fractures.

The study found that levels of calcium and magnesium dropped following Jarlsberg cheese intake, which the team attributed to their enhanced uptake for bone mineralisation.


Vitamin K2 and osteoporosis

The Jarlsberg study had some limitations according to nutrition experts. For instance, the effects would likely be seen in other fermented cheeses, according to Professor Tom Sanders from King’s College London. Methodological issues include a lack of dietary monitoring, and because healthy women were recruited the results cannot be applied to post-menopausal women with signs of bone density loss.

But it does have some rationale to support it. Vitamin K2 is needed to activate osteocalcin, which helps calcium bind to bones and increase their mineral content.

While vitamin K1 can be derived from leafy green vegetables such as kale and broccoli, K2 is found in animal products such as meat, eggs and cheese. Vitamin K2 has several different forms which are produced by bacterial fermentation of certain foods such as cheese.

It can also be produced by bacteria in the colon which flourish on a plant- and fibre-rich diet. Other important nutrients for bone health include protein, magnesium, vitamin C, phosphorus and boron.

Thus, as yummy as Jarlsberg cheese is, a healthy, balanced diet should be the foremost approach to optimal health, augmented by nutritional supplementation when needed. Exercise is also critical for maintaining healthy bone and muscle mass.







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